Greater East Side Renter Advisory Council

Councilmember Nelsie Yang speaks to the attendees of the GES Renter Cookout

We are pleased to announce a new initiative to engage and hear from the many residents of our neighborhood who rent their homes! One month ago, we held the first Renter Advisory Council meeting at the Hayden Heights Library. The Renter Advisory Council is an opportunity for renters across the district to share their experiences and concerns, speak with city government, and connect with other renters facing similar issues. It’s also a chance for renters to be directly involved in the planning process for their neighborhood. Meetings are held at Hayden Heights Library in the Bear Den meeting room on the last Tuesday of every other month. Meals are provided and renters will receive a $30 stipend to attend. Bus passes also are available and renters are encouraged to bring their children.

Why a renter council? District Planning Councils like Greater East Side Community Council (GESCC) were created to give neighborhoods and communities a stronger voice in the planning process and to create an interface between residents and the city of St. Paul. Historically, the system has suffered from being most engaged with homeowners, and wealthier, whiter residents. Considering that history, the Greater East Side Community Council launched this program to engage and empower the district’s many renter residents.

The Greater East Side has about 32,000 residents, roughly half of whom are renters. All those renter residents are encouraged to join the new Renter Advisory Council (RAC). The Renter Advisory Council will meet semi-monthly to discuss issues facing renters and consider strategies for advancing the needs and rights of renters in the city’s Greater East Side. Recommendations of the Renter Advisory Council will be presented to the GESCC Board. Renter Advisory Council members will also be encouraged to run for the larger GESCC board, speak at the annual meeting, and sit on GESCC board committees.

The Twin Cities currently face a housing shortage and rapidly rising rents. Residents of the Greater East Side regularly tell staff members that they struggle to pay rent or find new apartments after rent increases make their living situations untenable. The current situation is a result of decades of racialized housing policy that led to the Twin Cities having the greatest racial wealth gap in the country (1). Structural barriers, such as red-lining and racial covenants, prevented residents of color from purchasing homes and building wealth (2). In the past few years, more homes have been bought up by investors, driving prices even higher and turning residents who may once have been able to buy into perpetual renters, making the equity gap in housing even greater (3). As St. Paul becomes a city of renters, we are making structural changes to ensure renters are heard and included in planning decisions involving the Greater East Side. We hope these changes will help us lead the way in development without displacement and will help us make the Greater East Side Community Council a representative and advocate for all the residents of the Greater East Side.

To help make participation easier, we will be providing a stipend and meal to renters who attend RAC meetings, and we look forward to identifying other ways to make GESCC meetings more accessible to our renter neighbors. The next meeting of the Renter Advisory Council will be at Hayden Heights Library on Tuesday, November 30th, at 6pm. If you or someone you know might be interested in joining the Renter Advisory Council, please register here or contact David Ackos at d2communityorganizer@outlook.com or 651-328-3396.